Recode Media host Peter Kafka sat down with his employer, Recode Executive Editor Kara Swisher, for a wide-ranging chat about her rise as a reporter, the media landscape under President Trump and her own political aspirations.
You can read some of the highlights from the interview at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Media on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
Transcript by Celia Fogel.
Peter Kafka: I’m here with my boss.
Kara Swisher: Wow.
How ya doing?
I think this is going to be our Christmas episode, so merry Christmas …
Merry Christmas …
Happy Hanukkah …
Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa …
And whatever else you celebrate.
I think we’re supposed to be non-inclusive in the Trump era.
I was hearing that a lot. I heard it onstage the other day.
Non-inclusive? What does that mean?
We should stop being so politically correct.
Oh, fuck that.
We should let Americans not feel talked down to by the coastal elites.
Yeah, let’s talk down to them, sorry.
Yeah, you’re in New York, it’s good.
And you’re based in San Francisco, so we are coastal elites.
Being educated and tolerant really is not going to be a negative for me. [PK laughs] I had a relative who very typically expressed that sentiment like — I’m going to use their accent because they’re from the South — “You think you’re better than us.” And I said, “I am better than you.”
That was this year?
This year, after the election.
Post-election, this was their revenge.
Yeah, they were doing the sore-winner thing, which is an exhausting part of Trump people. They can’t just win, they are mad about winning and they have to make you feel bad on top of it. So I call them sore winners, which makes them mad.
I want to go back in the past and we’ll talk about your history, but I do want to talk about the future, so let’s start there.
You’re my boss, you’re the executive editor of Recode, you’re the co-founder. Prior to that, you were the co-founder of All Things D. I’ve worked for you since ...
[laughs] Way too long!
[laughs] Way too long!
I don’t know why you’re still doing it.
Did you call me here to tell me something?
No, I’m so sorry. I feel like you’ll be the one breaking up with me.
I’ve chosen to stay with you.
I know, it’s weird.
For better and for worse.
It’s from family dysfunction, maybe your parents didn’t hug you enough when you were a kid.
Yeah. Well, you’re not a big hugger.
No, I’m not, so you’re used to it.
But you’re not as fierce as you look.
Are your glasses off right now?
Yes. I’ll put them on if you’d like.
No, you do what you gotta do. But let’s talk about the future. Has the election made you rethink what you want to do at Recode, what you want to do professionally?
Yeah? How so?
Well, I think one of the things that we have not been doing, and I think a lot of the press hasn’t been doing, is I feel like sometimes we’re stenographers and we just type down what people say and then leave people to ... I think Janine Gibson talked about it last night onstage: It’s that “here’s one side, here’s the other side, do with it what you will.”
I think we need to really double down on not doing that, because they feel that we become stenographers and act like these things are all equal or we don’t have judgement on them based on strong reporting.
I think I did a little strongly with Peter Thiel. Everyone just wrote down what he said, and a lot of what he said was just ridiculous. So we said it was ridiculous and why. I think we have to really [have] some serious thoughts about what we want to say about what’s going on when things fail. Like, just recently, GoPro — I mean, this is just stuff we cover — GoPro is obviously in trouble, just stop pretending, this ridiculous canard that everything in Silicon Valley works beautifully.
So do you think that’s something you haven’t done? You have a reputation as this fiercely tough reporter. Do you think in the past you actually have not been opinionated enough in your writing?
Probably not. Probably we haven’t been. I think we’ve done it with certain companies. I’ve been tough on companies that deserve it. I think we just have to be tougher on everybody. I think we do this more in the podcasts, where we question people, we make them answer questions fully. And I think sometimes we don’t — again, we’re stenographers. It feels a little bit like we have to stop being stenographers all the time.
You know Michael Wolff, one of the two Michael Wolffs?
Which one? The nice one or the mean one?
The one you don’t like.
[laughs] Okay, I don’t dislike him.
The Murdoch biographer who’s now the Bannon biographer.
Right. Oh, is he doing a biography of Bannon?
Well, he got a big interview with him, he’s been dining out on it for a long time. He said we actually should be a stenographer. He’s a very good Twitter troll. And he did one of these podcasts, I guess, and he said, “We should be stenographers now, that’s actually the appropriate role for the press.” Knowing full well that it would freak everyone out.
Oh, please. He just says things.
Yeah, yeah. But his argument was, “No, no, this is now — when Donald Trump says something or Steve Bannon says something, you should write it down and transmit it to people, because that’s your role.
Do you think at all — this is heavy for a beginning of a interview — but do you think at all, beyond how critical we should be about GoPro or whatever company we’re talking about, do you think, beyond that, that maybe the work we do should be different work now that we’re living in a Trump world?
Yeah, I think we should really call people out on things. We have to stop being quite as cooperative. I think we cooperate way too much. And I think writing things down is exactly the problem. We sort of suspend disbelief that when these companies get money — this isn’t just tech, it’s everything — we allow them to lie, we allow them to say things that are false, we don’t question things as much as we should, for lots of reasons. We want to be fair. In our case, when we do that, we’re trying to be fair.
I think a lot of people who do what we do have that reservation, “I don’t really want to say that, I can’t say that, I can say it privately, we can say it at the bar. I’m not going to say it in my writing.”
There’s another argument, and I think there’s truth to this, that says journalists, whatever ecosystem they’re in, so we’re in the tech/media ecosystem, you don’t want to burn your sources, you don’t want to wreck relationships, we need to have people come onstage, people come onto these podcasts. If we’re really critical about them, we’re going to lose friends and allies and sources.
Yeah, that’s right.
How do you deal with that?
We’re going to lose friends and allies and sources.
That’s the correct answer, good for you. [KS laughs]
You know, I think about covering Yahoo. She’s completely cut me off for years.
Yeah. Just cut me off.
From the beginning.
From the beginning, because she perceived me as hostile, presumably. So they literally couldn’t [speak to me]. One of the PR people went out in the parking lot and called me on a burner phone and they apologized because it was unprofessional. So I think we did the best coverage of all time there, because we didn’t have access.
You did great coverage, and I always thought she was particularly ill-served because frankly I think she should have taken you out to lunch once.
It really would have changed things, and she could have done everything the same and you would just inherently have been less critical because you had a relationship with her.
Yeah, a hundred percent.
Nothing nefarious, she’s not bribing you.
No, I just feel like that was good for me. I was like, “Good, you don’t want to talk to me, I’ll just do good reporting and I don’t have to do the dance that people do.”
I was talking to some people who work for you. I asked them, “What question should I ask Kara?” [KS laughs] And that was one of them. How do you handle having relationships, having social relationships, with the people you cover?
Right, well ...
So you’re the most feared journalist in Silicon Valley.
Apparently. I think that’s a canard.
You’re not, right? You’re friends with many of these people. You’re genuinely friends with them.
I like a lot of them.
You’re socially friends with them, you host parties.
I think I’m less friends with a lot of them than you think. I think I’m friendly. I would say friendly. There are several people who have become friends. And I think I’m more friendly with them than anything else.
One of the things they do like, and I do think that’s the reason they like to come on the podcast for interviews, is they like the idea of an intelligent person asking them tough questions. I think smart people, I always feel like really smart people really like tough questions. They do. Ultimately they do. They don’t want to spend their whole lives being licked up and down by journalists.
Some of them like the licking.
[laughs] They do, they do.
But I always tell tech people, they’ll ask about, “What PR firm should I hire?” And it’s not a great answer but I always say, look, whatever you do, talking to me, talking to Kara Swisher, that’s the easiest part of your day. Raising money, getting employees to do something, hiring people, that’s all really hard stuff. But just having a cogent conversation with me.
I think it’s better because they can really think out their businesses, too. Like if we bring questions up, you’d want that. If you were starting a business — especially since I’ve been around since the dawn of time, I can say, “When they did this then, this is what happened.” And it doesn’t mean it’s going to be pertinent here. We have a lot of knowledge that is helpful to people.
People want ... maybe they don’t want a truthful person, but I would think I want a truthful person telling me what mistakes I could make or what things I should try more than other things. So you know, some people I do personally like. I like Sheryl Sandberg, I do. I like her. I have a lot of disagreements with her on some of her stuff, but I do personally like her. It’s hard not to like a lot of people. It’s hard not to laugh at Marc Benioff, he’s funny. He’s witty.
So take Sheryl, for an example, COO of Facebook. Do you think your Facebook coverage would be different if you didn’t have that relationship, if you didn’t like her, if you didn’t go to her house for her parties?
No, because I think what they’re doing around fake news I’ve been pretty ... I haven’t written enough about it, but I have been outspoken about how it’s ridiculous. Mark’s statements on this are just idiotic. So I don’t think they expect me to behave, and I’ve said it to them, and to Sheryl’s face.
We had an argument, not an argument, but I saw her and I said, “This is just bullshit, what you’re saying. You have a huge responsibility, you’re a media company, you want to pick and choose where you’re responsible.” I don’t think I held back in any way.
And did she actually argue?
Because onstage and in public she doesn’t engage, she just has a sort of robot answer, a non-answer.
Yeah, she does, she did engage.
So what is her argument? Take us backstage.
It’s not unsimilar. Actually, Sheryl is very similar onstage and offstage, which is ... [laughs] You know what I mean? She’s not someone who varies a lot. I think she understands, I think they understand their responsibility, I think she at least will admit they’re figuring it out, they don’t know. It’s a difficult thing.
And you know, she’s not technical, and there are some huge technical issues around dealing with fake news. There really are. I did a tweet and I got hundreds and hundreds of replies about the technical aspect, I said, “What is the technical problem?” She was politic and diplomatic, but I got no sense that she did not understand that this is a big issue. Which Mark sort of communicated, that it wasn’t …
Eventually he said, “Oh yeah, yeah, it is a big issue,” but after three or four tries.
Yeah, but he still tried to soft pedal it by using words like “gray” and “You’re crazy to think …” Why would you be crazy to think this had an impact?
And why do you think that Sheryl and Mark are so insistent on not being called a media company? I have my own theories for it. It also seems incredibly obvious that they’re a media company, right? They take our attention, they sell advertisements.
A hundred percent, they benefit from it.
That’s how they make a lot of money, they sell advertising.
And meanwhile, they’re putting media out of business. I think that they don’t want the responsibility of it. They like pretending they’re this tool and platform. You don’t want to compare it to guns, but it’s more like cigarettes, you know what I mean? I’m not sure what product it is, like Coca-Cola or whatever.
Or it’s like Google, right? Which also is a media company.
Facebook is more so.
Right, but if the users are putting the things [up], if people are using our platform to put their stuff there, we’re just connected with them, we’re not making any judgements.
Yeah. “We’re just the platform,” that’s their favorite thing.
I think that’s what scares them about fake news.
I think that they’d rather just be the platform and be responsible for it, but everything they do has an enormous impact. The same thing with Google, although less so. Facebook is a place where people really are sharing a lot more, so I’m not sure ... The thing is, there’s no easy answer for what they should do, right? It is difficult from a technology point of view to fix this. There are gray areas, there are.
That’s the thing, right? It’s difficult, but they’re full of geniuses ...
Yes, that’s what I said.
And also there’s some things you can do, right? There’s no child porn on Facebook, or if there is it’s ...
Oh no, they’re very able to do it. They’re able. They always tout how smart they are, every day of the week, until it’s something that they don’t want to deal with and then, “Hey, it’s real hard, Kara.” Like all of a sudden they’re, “Oh, if you understood.”
I’m like, “Well, I thought you could go to the moon. I’m sorry, you keep talking about how smart you are.” And they find it ... “Well, this one is really hard,” whenever it’s inconvenient and difficult, especially because this is a societal problem. And I do think that they don’t admit that they had an enormous impact from that conservative attack that they got around algorithms and their Trending news.
Which was a non-true story. Gizmodo wrote this story and — I’ve talked about this a bit — you know, good for them for being ambitious, but it was not a well-sourced story, it was not a well-edited story, and basically the premise of it was wrong, which was that there was a group of people actually trying to actively ….
Yeah, a bunch of liberals going crazy.
Trying to suppress conservative viewpoints. And it’s not a true thing, but Facebook spent the summer cowering from that report.
Yes. Facebook is a company that does that all the time. You know that. I really like what they do in a lot of ways, but they are the most twitchy company on those kinds of things.
You think more so than other Silicon Valley companies?
Yeah, I think a lot of them just wait to rope-a-dope people. Just wait and wait and wait. Twitchy.
Because they are all seen as swashbuckling and change-the world and self confident, and rightly so. They’re rewarded with all sorts of things, including lots of money. These folks seem like they’re very very loath to stick any body part out of Silicon Valley.
Yeah, I think probably Tim Cook ...
I’m working that metaphor.
They’ll do it easily with gay issues, for example. They all line up on that one. They’ll be like, “Hey, North Carolina.”
This year and some last year. North-Carolina-bad kind of thing. Indiana-bad kind of thing. What was interesting was when we were doing the Ellen Pao coverage and I was trying to get quotes from CEOs about women’s issues, you couldn’t get someone to do it. And one of the CEOs ...
This is the Kleiner Perkins...
Kleiner Perkins with Ellen’s suit against them. Sexual harassment or sexual discrimination. And I couldn’t get a quote out of anybody. One of them truthfully said, “This is the third rail, I’m not touching it. But would you like to talk about gay issues?” Like, immediately.
Was it sexism or was it money?
They didn’t want to talk about issues around misogyny. They just didn’t want to talk about it. They didn’t want to talk on the record about it, for sure.
You mentioned gay issues. I wanted to ask you, there’s a Tim Cook story that you tell sometimes, maybe you can share it here, about being onstage with him. He was not out.
It was reported by many people, or well-discussed, that he was gay. Didn’t seem to be a controversial thing.
And in your mind, you’re onstage with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and you’re debating whether or not to ask him if he’s gay.
Actually, I thought the interview was kind of boring [laughs], that’s what it was. You know how he is. He’s a lovely man, he really is a lovely man, but the interview was dull at the moment and I was bored with the interview.
It was his first interview post-Steve Jobs.
Yeah, he’s very low energy. He’s not low energy, either, he’s hard to interview.
He’s very reserved compared to most people who are just egomaniacs, raging egomaniacs, and so they’re entertaining.
Well, and also compared to Steve Jobs, right?
Right, of course.
So he’s sitting in the seat where Steve Jobs used to sit and captivate everyone.
Yeah, exactly. And he’s got his own assets and everything, but it was a really dull interview, and I was kind of bored, and I thought, “What would happen here if I asked him what it’s like to be the most senior gay executive in Silicon Valley?” It just crossed my mind.
I was sitting there — literally, this is how bored I was — I was trying to figure out what would be the cost to me for doing that, what would happen, and what would Walt do, what would [Tim] do, what would the crowd do, would I have to leave journalism? And I didn’t do it, because then I thought, it’s just not ... it’s up to him, ultimately. But it was one of my naughty periods. It was like, “What would be the cost to Kara Swisher?”
Have you ever talked to him about that?
Because eventually he did come out on his own.
We never talked about him being gay.
And you’ve never had that discussion with him.
Never, mm-mm. He’s not like that. He’s not someone who welcomes ... I don’t even know him that well, so I’m not a friend. He’s been pretty good around the issues. I think they were very brave on encryption, for example. He was very outspoken, at a cost. That was surprising, that they were so outspoken. But I kind of like that about them.
So we’ll go through everyone else in Silicon Valley, ask them if they’re gay or not [KS laughs]. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
I don’t know. I just felt like in lots of ways I think his take — and he and I are around the same age — was, “It’s not a big deal, it’s not the most important part of my character.” I think that’s where he is, I assume, so that’s why he never talked about it. I’m a different person, where I feel that his coming out was critically important to people who are gay to understand that ...
I was going to ask you about this, so I’ll ask you about it. Last night, I don’t know when we’ll hear this, but we had an event last night onstage, Jim VandeHei who’s the co-founder of Politico is now creating this new publication, whose name I can’t ...
I am not Axios. [laughs]
I was going to say Noxious. Or Axe body spray. And then he went on a ...
My sons use that, it’s awful.
My sons eventually, it’s going to be terrible.
Covers up worse smells.
There’s also one from Old Spice called Swagger that you’re going to hate.
Oh, don’t tell me.
So VandeHei said, at one point, he went on a rant about Trump and why Trump won, and one of his points — and I’ve heard other people make this point, so it’s a new conventional wisdom — is that one of the things that the Trump voter is reacting to is being told they’re wrong, being looked down upon by coastal elites.
And one thing they always bring up is they say, “They don’t want to be told they’re wrong for having questions about gay rights or same-sex bathrooms.” I keep hearing this. So do you think that’s a legitimate argument?
No, they are wrong.
So do you think that’s fueling …
It may be fueling if you want to treat everyone like they’re 12 years old, I guess. You know what I mean? It doesn’t matter. People said the exact same things about interracial marriages. I’m sure they were doing it about slavery. It’s just: They’re wrong. I was in an interesting discussion ...
So there’s this argument that says, well, you have to learn to reach across the aisle and understand where they’re coming from.
I don’t want to reach across the aisle on that issue. They’re wrong. They’re a hundred percent wrong, and history will bear this out. Because it’s the last raging vestige of anger over something they’re wrong about.
Just like they were wrong about interracial marriages. There’s a new movie out, “Loving,” which I’m excited to see. They would go, “I can feel that way.” Well, you can feel that way, but you’re wrong.
I have relatives who ... I had one uncle who called me up early on in this thing, and he goes, “You know, 49 percent of the people in this country, or 50 percent, 51 percent, don’t believe in gay marriage.” I said, “How did you lose that 49 percent so quickly? Mmm, that’s pretty bad!”
It’s just a matter of time and history. I have a lot of born-again relatives, and their concerns are not gay marriage, they are poverty, which it should be. What Jesus did talk about, which was poverty and all kinds of inequity and inequality. And that’s what they’re concerned with, and they are not concerned with that issue. And so I am hoping that time will just ...
Yeah, it’s a weird one that they keep bringing back up.
They do, and I’m tired of listening to it.
But I don’t know why. I know that in the past, that’s been an election issue. Seems like it was not even an election issue this year, no one was even talking about it onstage. So this notion that there’s this deep-seated resentment about treating gay people fairly ...
Sure, they’re deep-seated wrong, and they feel bad that they don’t get to say the terrible things they get to say.
Yeah, I don’t even think it’s a ... well, who knows. They were wrong about everything else in the election.
It’s interesting, because one of the things was — I had another relative who I think is ignorant and was saying, “Oh, we won.” You know, the sore winner thing, “We won, we won. You thought you were better than us.” They keep doing that one, I do get that from some relatives. And I’m like, “I am better than you.” And they go crazy. They’re like, “No, you’re not.” I’m like, “I really am. I’m smarter, I’m richer, I’m more educated, I have a better life. You look like you’re going to keel over from all that fried food.”
What I do is I poke them and poke them and poke them, but the fact of the matter is [that] celebrating intolerance and lack of education is not something [to celebrate]. I’ll continue to fight it. It’s ridiculous for us to give in and cooperate with that. We should not cooperate. Elizabeth Warren last night on CNN was talking about that, and Anderson Cooper — who always tries to get to the middle, like, “Let’s all get along,” — he goes, “Don’t you think we should all get along?"
And she goes, “No, I don’t. Why should we accept policies that are not good policies that we don’t agree with? We should not get along.” And I think Democrats and liberals tend to always try to get along, and the Republicans certainly haven’t.
Right, and then they’ll make the, “I don’t know why you’re getting so worked up about politics.” As if it’s a flavor of ice cream, right? It’s not a flavor of ice cream.
Yeah, well, I’ve lived it. I have children, I know what the cost is. So I won’t tolerate it. I’m not going to get along. Again, it’s the same theme. We always tend to get along when we should have been asking questions, at the very least. And we don’t ask enough questions. I think we don’t. And I think we do more than others, but still not enough.
I’m going to think of a question. We’re going to listen to our sponsors, we’ll be right back.
And I’m back with Kara Swisher, who is eyeballing her phone. [KS laughs] She desperately wants to pick it up.
It’s my best relationship I ever had.
But she’s behaving so responsibly.
I had a phone when I had a baby, you know that. I love my phone.
You had a BlackBerry.
Yes, in my hand, I was. I was texting Walt Mossberg, of all things.
Let’s talk about Walt Mossberg and you and how you got to be here. You cut your teeth at the Washington Post.
Right. Mm-hm. I was just back there yesterday. I had nostalgia for it, it was fantastic.
How did you get to the Washington Post? Because that’s not a paper you just normally walk into.
No, I did normally walk into it. That’s what I did.
Well, you’re Kara. But most people have to work their way up to the Washington Post.
Yeah, I did work my way up there, but I worked my way up from the mailroom. I was at Georgetown University and I called Larry Kramer, who was the Metro editor, over a story that I had covered for the student newspaper. His reporter had covered it, and his reporter made a lot of errors in the story, and it drove me crazy because it was the Washington Post. [laughs] It was full of errors, and I was so mad! So I called him up and I said, “This is just terrible, this is the Washington Post, how could you send such a crappy reporter here?” And, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” And he said, “Why don’t you come down and tell that to my face.” I didn’t realize I had reached the Metro editor.
Wait, so this is while you were at the mailroom already?
No, no, no.
This is how you got to the mailroom.
You insulted your way into the mailroom.
[laughs] I insulted my way into the mailroom. But he said, “Why don’t you come down and tell that to my face” and I said, “All right, I will.” And I got on the bus, I think it’s the D2, I forget, down to 15th Street, they’ve moved since. And I met with him.
And he said, “You think you could do better?” I said, "With my eyes closed I could do better than your stupid reporter.” So I ended up writing for the District Weekly. They had a thing that covered student issues. And then I also worked in the mailroom at night. I worked as a night news aide, which included mailroom duties, delivering mail. You used to have to move stories up and down. There were people downstairs, at the time, who were deaf because of the noise of the presses at the Washington Post.
Actual printing presses.
Yeah, actual printing presses.
Where do you get the confidence to call up an editor at the Washington Post and tell them they’re wrong? Some people can build that confidence up over time, a lot of people will never have it, a lot of people talk about women not having that confidence. Seems like you came out of your mom’s womb that way.
Yes. I do. I don’t know. I just was like that when I was a kid. My mom told me I walked out of first grade and said, “I’m not going to sit here anymore, I know this already. So they need to give me something better.”
So you’ve been that pain in the ass from birth.
Yes, from birth. I don’t know what it is. It’s interesting. They used to call me, when I was a kid, Tempesta. So I guess that means stormy.
So Tempesta gets to the Post [KS laughs] — and did you want to be a journalist?
Yes, I did. Yeah, I had been working for the student newspaper.
I was at Georgetown, I did not like it my freshman year, and what saved me was working for the newspaper. I thought it was full of drunken people, [laughs] they just drank a lot, I don’t drink, so I didn’t like the tone, it was a little misogynistic, it was anti-gay at the time even though all the priests were gay. It was a weird place, so I found a lot of salvation in the student newspaper.
With the nerds.
Exactly. And I did really well. I had a popular column right from the get-go and I liked the newspaper. So I was going to go in the CIA [laughs], I was at the school foreign service.
Kara the spy.
Yes. Except again, being gay was an issue at the time. There were all kinds of issues around being out, being gay.
And you were out at Georgetown?
No, no. But it was an issue.
You knew you were gay?
But you were not out.
Yes, yes. Relatively quickly, soon after, I was, but not when I was at college. But at the time, it was an issue if you were going to go into any kind of intelligence stuff. It was, at the time.
So you’re writing for the paper, you get to the Post, and you end up covering business. Is that because you wanted to cover business, or that’s where they wanted you to work?
No, what happened was — I did really want to be a spy, and I wanted to actually be in ROTC, but I was gay — again, there were lots of things I wanted. My dad was in the military, I have a lot of regard for the military, and I couldn’t be in the military. I don’t think “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was in place at that time, but again, I couldn’t do that, like what was that? That was ridiculous. And later, when you could go in the military, I was too old. I was going to sign up for the Reserves, which is interesting. I just want to shoot a gun, Peter. [laughs]
You’d look awesome in the [uniform]. You kind of had a military jacket on last night, it looked good.
[laughs] I wanted to be in the Reserves.
You may get your chance to shoot a gun.
Yes, exactly. I told you [about] the “Militia Etheridge” I’m forming in the Castro, [laughter] in case we have to split from the rest of the country. So I was at the Post and I worked my way up. I worked there as an aide, and then I got the coveted internship, the summer internship, which is also given to Harvard people and then they’d hire a Harvard person, that is really how I went.
And I had a pretty good resume, it’s not like I didn’t. I got the internship and did really well and got a job from that. And what happened was, there were a lot of people ... the business section was the backwater at the time, and it’s right before, I think, “Barbarians at the Gate” came out or right around that time, and then suddenly everyone was like, “Business is cool, it’s interesting.”
Yeah, well, that particular book had a lot of impact. And the second one, the other one that James Stewart did. It was the same thing, it was his Wall Street stories. So I went to the business section, essentially. In the interim, I had gotten a degree from Columbia Journalism School too, and I had been offered jobs in Florida and places like that. And again, being gay, I’m like, “I don’t want to move there, I don’t want to move to rural Alabama.”
“I’m staying in Metropolis.”
“I’m staying in Metropolis, and I’m going to start at the top.” So I went back to the Post. I worked in the style section, I did all kinds of things there. I did all the little jobs, essentially. And every time they’d give me an assignment, I’d take it.
“Say yes.” That’s a good thing to know.
“Say yes,” exactly. A lot of reporters are lazy, I’m sorry, and I wasn’t. They’re all whiny and lazy, and I’m like, “I’ll do it, I’ll do it.” It was always an “I’ll do it” kind of thing. So I got the summer internship, and I was the best person, I just was. I worked my ass off. And I really understood what needed to happen.
And at some point, you end up writing about AOL, which is then a small Virginia-based company.
What happened is I started writing about a family called the Haft family, which was a retail [family]. I covered retail for six years, actually, for the Post. I ended up in the business section at the end and I wrote a series of stories that got a lot of attention, which was about a family that was breaking up, and I wrote it like it was “King Lear.”
Yeah, so I got tired of doing it, and then someone said, “You should look at these internet companies.” They weren’t called internet companies, they were online services companies.
And did you know what that was? Did you get what it was?
Yeah? Did it click into you that this is a giant thing?
Or this is a weird little nerd hobby.
No, not at all. I really did understand it right away. It was like whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. And I had been a student of history around radio and television — all the different mediums had changed, and I studied it a lot at Columbia. And when I saw it, I downloaded a book onto a server and messed up the server. And the people who were running the computer system — it was at Duke, I think — were yelling at me for doing this, because I mucked up the system. And I said, “But I downloaded a book, don’t you understand?” And they were like, “Yes, you can download a book.” I’m like, “But you can download a book.” And they kept saying, “Yes, you can download a book.” And I’m like, “But you can do it!” So it iterated to me that you could put anything online that was print or classified.
So it immediately clicked with you, this is a giant story, and this compared to Delphi or Prodigy.
But AOL is an important company to cover.
The whole thing. I didn’t care which one it was, because I called all those companies. But I was lucky in that Washington was the center, was Mae East, it was one of the hubs of the internet.
Right, people forget this. Washington, D.C., was a commercial center for the internet.
Right, there was tons of them. PSINet, I can’t remember all of them.
UUNet was there, that crazy guy. He was an alien believer, that was a great interview I did with him. He’s probably right.
I wrote about all these companies, and AOL just struck my fancy because it was so commercialized for the average person, and nobody was covering it, and nobody was covering Yahoo then.
Did you have to convince the Post to let you write about that stuff?
Yes, mm-hm, very much.
So even the Post, which is full of smart people, couldn’t figure that part out?
You know, David Ignatius — who’s there now — he understood it, he got it, he understood the importance of it. And you know, it was a homegrown company, really. There are whole bunches of them.
So the way the Post had been covering technology was through people who sold technology to the government, and that was a terrible thing to cover. They just sort of screwed the government constantly on lots of computer systems. So this was different. Several editors did get it, they did get it, and they thought it was exciting at the time.
And why did you go to the Journal?
Well, they didn’t think it was that exciting, you know what I mean? So it wasn’t the way [to get ahead]. The way to get ahead at the Post was to cover the White House, and that was where they wanted [me]. They were like, “Don’t you want to cover politics? Don’t you want to cover the White House?” And I couldn’t think of anything ...
So this is when?
Mid ’90s, right, so the internet being a sexy ...
It was not.
Wasn’t that by 1995-96?
’96 is when it did.
So you were at the Journal by then?
Yes. What happened was, I got a book contract. I was going to write a book about the Haft family, and my editor, John Karp, who’s now the head of Simon and Schuster, said, “Everybody’s horrible in this book, you don’t want to write a book about these people. What are you doing?” And I said, “I’m doing this coverage of this stuff.” And he goes, “Now, that’s a story.”
Yeah, and he bought that book. He bought that book. Talk about a smart guy. He really was early onto it. So I wrote a book about AOL, and in writing the book, I met Walt Mossberg. He was in my book because he was one of the first people also to recognize the importance of companies like AOL.
Walt’s doing his technology column at the Journal at this time?
Right. He had started it in the ’90s.
Which was radical.
Very much so.
It was a radical idea to have someone dedicated to writing about consumer technology.
Yeah, he was coming from the defense department. You know, everyone thought that [it was a step down]. James Baker, he covered the state department, thought [Walt] had gotten a demotion.
Walt really got it also. And there weren’t that many people who understood it, and he did. He actively recruited me to come to the Journal because he felt the Journal needed to cover this, because he thought it was going to be huge. And Paul Steiger agreed and hired me.
So Walt brings you there.
I moved to San Francisco.
Walt is a giant star.
And you do really well, you thrive there, you’re covering the mergers and the disasters. And then at what point does the All Things D conference and the website [happen]?
I covered all that, up until the merger. The merger was great because then I wrote a sequel, because it was perfect.
AOL - Time Warner.
Worst merger in history.
Worst merger in history.
Everyone could see it from a million miles away except the companies that did it.
But correct in its idea.
It was, it was. It was correct in the concept of merging. Come on, everything else that’s followed it has been that. You know, those companies ...
We’re still debating whether you merge distribution and content, right?
Yes, you discussed that. But conceptually a lot of the ideas became other companies. Let’s just say it’s like Google Glass. Conceptually it’s the right idea, it doesn’t mean the product is right.
I agree with you on Google Glass.
All right. But there’s a lot of things like that. There’s tons and tons of tech products like that.
The idea that a big media company is eventually going to become a big internet company, I get that.
And the distribution should have gone over. Those people couldn’t have made it happen, but it was an interesting idea. The merger was a disaster, the idea, I still stick to it.
So I wrote about that, and then I wrote the second book, and in the early 2000s, I started noticing all these blogs: Andrew Sullivan had one, TechCrunch was around, and I didn’t think they did a very good job, I thought they were shoddy. But there were tons of these blogs, and I went to Walt and said, “We should do a blog.”
This is before the conference.
Mm-hm. Oh, I wanted to do the blog first.
“I want to do my own blog, I want to write my own internet site.”
Under the auspices of the Journal, or you wanted to go off and ...
Yes, under the auspices of the Journal. People weren’t doing a lot of that.
Right, because the Times and the Journal at the time would have an online edition, but that would literally be it.
They treated it like a secondary thing.
Right, they would just take what was in the newspaper and put it up online once a day.
Yeah, it was run by Bill Grueskin, who was very early, very smart. I think he’s at Columbia now. But they were averse to it. “What’s a blog?” all the time, and then they got on the, “They’re so not factual,” and then I would always have their mistakes, I’m like, “You had 16 mistakes last year, so I don’t know what you’re bragging about, your fantastic record.”
I think innately the people at the Journal understood that it was going to kill them. I think they did. And they hated it.
It’s pretty natural, right? There’s a group of people who get disrupted who literally don’t understand what’s happening and don’t see it coming. There’s another group who are aware of it, but the rational thing to do is actually just pretend it’s not going to happen because day to day ...
Yeah, they did it at the Post.
And the music companies do it, the movie guys do it, the TV guys are going through it right now, where you go, “I know this is going to kill me in five years, but I’ve got to make money for this quarter.”
They hate it, they actively hate it. One person who was lovely about it was Don Graham, when I was leaving the Washington Post to go to the Journal. I was a promising person there, I was someone who they wanted to keep, and he said, “Well, why are you leaving?" And I said, “You know, Don, the water’s rising. The floodplain is rising. And you’re on a lower floodplain than the Wall Street Journal, and by the way, it’s going to hit the Journal too.” And he was like, “Okay.” He got it. He understood.
I had covered retail, so I understood that these retailers weren’t coming back and Walmart didn’t advertise it. They lost Woody’s and a whole bunch, Heckingers, Giant Food, they just lost a lot of advertising. And then I felt like classifieds were totally disrupted. That was their second tier. Classifieds and major advertising. And I was like, I don’t know how you figured this out, thank goodness they have this owner that can afford it now.
I want to come back to this in a minute or two. But I thought you started the conference first. I should know the corporate history here.
We did. Because they wouldn’t let us do the blog.
And you said, “We want to have a conference where Bill Gates and Steve Jobs show up, and it’ll make a ton of money.”
Yes. They had a conference division, but it was all sponsor-driven.
And why did they let you guys start a conference?
Because Walt was really powerful.
Because Walt was a big deal, and this was a way to appease Walt.
Yeah, exactly. I would say that’s [about right]. They didn’t care about me.
And you were smart enough to attach yourself to Walt.
I mean, you’re friends with him as well.
Yes, of course, all the great ideas are mine [laughter] ... No, they’re not. But I think I spurred Walt to think hard about where this [was going]. Walt’s really entrepreneurial. You don’t think about him as an entrepreneur, but actually, having left his job, his powerful defense-department, state-department job, to do that was a big entrepreneurial leap, and he was open to it.
And we had gone to conferences, and they’re all big thumb-sucking sponsor love and horribly boring — really, that’s their real problem, they were boring. And we felt we had a lot of [potential]. At this time, I had lots of relationships in the industry, and we felt we could do live journalism. We call it that now, but I don’t remember at the time what it was called.
It’s called the conference that didn’t suck.
Yeah, the conference that didn’t suck.
And it worked right out of the gate, right?
Right out of the gate.
Made a bunch of money.
Made money right away.
And you guys didn’t make money the first year, right?
No. No. The first year I think we made a million dollars. I think there was some profit, I forget. It was a lot of money for two reporters to make.
You did make a lot of money.
Yeah, the first year we made a profit, a good profit, a solid profit.
But you and Walt personally, did you get that money?
No, but at some point you guys had this amazing contract.
At one point, I called Walt the first year when I was like, “How many reporters are not a cost center [but] the opposite?” I literally called Walt, I’m like, “Did you get the flowers yet? Because I didn’t get the flowers.” We didn’t get flowers, we didn’t get chocolates, where are the thank-you notes? And literally what they said to us was, “Well, it’s part of your job.” I’m like, “Part of our job is to make you a ton of money and not give it to us?”
So right away, since I had been infected by the Silicon Valley disease, it’s like, “I did the work and I didn’t get the money?” Or I didn’t get the shares, or I didn’t get the credit and stuff. They just had an antiquated view of reporters, you know, that they were just cogs.
And how did you — because at some point, then, you end up with a contract where you and Walt do get a bunch of profits.
We got a third, a third, a third, a third. [laughs]
You made a lot of money.
Yeah, we did.
How did you get them to do that?
I don’t know. They were stupid? I don’t know.
Are they stupid or are they smart?
Um, I don’t think they thought it would make as much money as it did. I think that’s one of the things. And so they felt like it wasn’t that big a deal, and it actually became a much bigger deal and it became very profitable.
And you guys became this sort of prototype for a thing we’ve had for a bunch of years now where you’re a star reporter at a big publication, at a big media company, and now there’s a debate about what they’re going to do with you. Do they try to keep you happy and give you your own stuff to play with? Do you go off and do your own thing like Bill Simmons has tried to do? Do you just pick up shop and go somewhere else?
Right, I would say they weren’t very helpful. You know what I mean? It was sort of like — I would say benign neglect, but it really wasn’t that. There was a lot of resentment in the newsroom, for sure.
Other reporters or editors?
Yes, because you do want to pull people down that are excelling because ...
And they’re saying, like, “Why is she making all that money?”
Yeah, well, they aren’t doing anything. So you know, I think it scares reporters, so they were ...
And let’s be honest, right, you’re the same person who tells your relatives that you’re better than them, you’re certainly going to tell your co-workers.
I did, it’s true. [laughs] But I was!
So that can occasionally rub someone the wrong way.
No, I know, but instead of being like, “Wow, this is an opportunity … ” One of the things Walt and I wanted to do was do All Things Finance, All Things Health. And John Miller was also into that, he was the head of digital at the time and he liked that idea.
At News Corp.
Yeah. And they just never funded it. I think it was because they had other issues going on at the time. There was all kinds of losses in Europe and things like that. It was very typical of a big company not to want to try something new. They just didn’t want to try something. That’s why Politico left the Washington Post. Their mentality wasn’t there, they had bigger fish to fry, I guess. So we never came to a decision. We signed one or two contracts when it switched over to Rupert Murdoch. Rupert loved Walt, never knew my name for a long time.
And then he loved you for a while.
Because he loves gossip.
Yes, he would call me for gossip.
He’d call you and he’d gossip with you.
Yes, he loves gossip. I still don’t think he knows precisely who I am sometimes. Sometimes he sees me ...
But it is funny when you hear — this is back to the hacking thing — “I have no idea what was going on at my newspaper.” Of course he did.
Oh my god, he’s so sharp. He’s sharp as a fucking tack, that guy.
Yeah. He might not know what’s going on, I don’t know, at some part of Fox network.
Oh no, I think he knows. I literally won’t turn my back on that man until he’s in the ground. [laughs] I’m just like, he’s so smart, he’s so smart.
So you guys do great at the Journal, you make a lot of money, you build this franchise. I go to work for you, minor footnote. And then you leave. Why’d you leave?
You know, the hacking thing did impact us. Personally, me. That thing really disturbed me, the behavior around the hacking, I have to say. I know it disturbed Walt. That wasn’t the primary thing, it just was like, ecch, these people.
And they [said], “We fired you.”
No, they didn’t. They never did.
But that’s what they told Michael Wolff.
They tried, they tried to say it. I have emails where they begged us to stay. So whatever, they can do whatever they want. Peter Chernin warned me that they would try and do that, but that’s fine.
So you go off on your own.
Whatever, we didn’t. We never negotiated with them, we had one meeting with them. We had already been in extensive discussions with NBC and others and were in our final choice between NBC and another organization.
But let’s just set it up. So your thought was, “We want to go do what we’re doing, but do it somewhere else as our own company, with funding. We want to do what other people we’ve reported on have done, which is actually create our own thing.”
“With money,” and that’s what you went to do with re-slash-code, now Recode.
Yeah, exactly, Recode. What we did is we made a list of six companies — the A companies, the B companies, the C companies — and worked our way through them. You can obviously guess who the A ones are. You know, the NBCs of the world.
So what’d you learn about that process? It’s one thing to report about this for many years. It’s another thing to actually go out and do it: To go out and raise money and then to operate a company. And you’re the person who was smart enough to understand that AOL was going to be successful, that these retailers were going out of the way, and the Washington Post was screwed. But it’s another thing to actually run that company yourself.
Yes, it turned out to be very hard.
So what’d you learn?
You know, I think one of the things was we didn’t anticipate ... I think that things changed really quickly once we raised the money. Once we got the money, then Vox and Vice and all the others raised three or four times the amount of money or more. The minute that happened, I knew we were screwed. We couldn’t keep up fast enough, we couldn’t grow fast enough. That’s why I wanted to sell right away. People were surprised by that, but it was pretty clear to me.
You sold about a year after you launched.
Yes, people were shocked.
A year and a half.
Right. And the reason we did is because the people were gaining an enormous amount of money and the only way we could keep up was to gain that amount of money from VCs.
Now, if you were reporting on another company, and they raise a bunch of money, a lot of fanfare, and they launch, and a year and a half later they sell, they say, “Well, it’s because the other people were raising money,” you go, “That’s not an argument.”
No, really it was. I just didn’t think that we would win.
You would poke holes in that argument.
I would poke holes. But here’s the deal. We would have had to raise more money and therefore lose control. And we would have had to raise VC money, which was something we didn’t do at that time. You could see that it could get into a lot of trouble.
I was doing a lot more business stuff when I should have been doing writing and stuff, so that was another thing. It was taking a lot of my time.
What about that idea of running the company as opposed to being an editor, being a writer? Did you like the full control?
Some of it.
Would you ever do that again?
Yeah, absolutely. I think Jim VandeHei likes it more than I did. I think. You know, people would say, “Oh, it’s a failure.” No, it’s that you understood that you were not going to be the one. Jim Bankoff had the CMS system.
CEO of Vox Media.
CEO of Vox Media.
Your boss, my boss.
Exactly. And so it was just obvious that they were going to do better, so why not attach yourself to them? And why stand on principle, “I’m going to show them”?
You know, we could have stayed a very small outfit, I think that would have been fine. I think we would have been profitable eventually, as we were at the Wall Street Journal, and there weren’t too many extra costs. But it would have been small, we would have stayed small. And the risks inherent in all that.
What strikes me in retrospect is that we really didn’t understand — forget the money part of it — just how the publishing world had changed and the idea of creating a blog and putting yourself on the blog and then generating traffic from that and growing over time.
Yeah, traffic is hard.
We had no idea how social worked.
No, exactly, that was a hundred percent ...
Not a clue, which is embarrassing for me to admit, again, having been the person who reported on it. It didn’t occur to me that we would have to restructure the company to do that.
But things change very rapidly in that regard. Like the whole Facebook Instant Articles, everything just suddenly ...
And by the way, they’re still changing. Just today, there was a story about a company called Elite Daily, which is these 20somethings, just real knuckleheads, who figured out how to game Facebook and they grew their traffic overnight and they sold to the Daily Mail for somewhere between $26 million and $40 million two years ago and the Mail just wrote them off, today, to zero.
Right. Well, I would have been happy for that. [laughter]
No, but I’m saying, the stuff does move really fast.
It does, and you know the stuff that you had to be good at, I don’t even like being good at. You know what I mean? Like the gaming of Facebook.
Just the idea of spending my life doing that was horrible. And you know, again, we did very well. We actually ended up doing well. I’m not trying to defend myself for it, but our investors did fine. It was good. I think it was smart. I think a lot of people would not have sold, would have been like, “I’m going to show them,” kind of thing.
Right, double down, raise another round.
Raise another round, and I was like, “You know what? No.”
You’re crushing it.
Yeah, exactly. I just thought it was a waste of time and money for people to do that when we had another solution. We had a lot of things Vox wanted, the conference business, a certain reputation and stuff like that that they needed, and they had a lot of stuff we needed. And their ethics were the same, in line with ours, and Jim Bankoff is a wonderful person, it’s hard to not ...
Hi, Jim. He’s probably listening.
Hi, Jim, how ya doing? No, but he is, he really is. I’ve known him since ... I wrote about him when he did all the stuff at weblogs at AOL, so I felt consolidation was coming, and look, I was right.
Look what’s happening now with bigger and other companies: What happens is you either [grow or] go out of business. I think we either would have gotten real small, which you know, Peter, you and I could just do what we want and do just fine and make a lot of money by ourselves.
Yes we could! We could dump everybody.
I want to make more money.
Exactly. And so the question is, do you want to stay small or do you want to be part of a bigger thing? And I felt for the employees and everyone else it was better to move on rather than raise more money. I just didn’t think we would do ... I think it would have been a disaster, probably.
So Vox Media is a company that both employs a lot of millennials and wants to reach a lot of millennials.
Yes, they are, but they don’t do it in the dumb way.
They don’t do it in the dumb way, but I’m curious about your take. We work with a lot of people who are a lot younger than us now and that’s a new idea for me to wrap my head around, although it turns out it was not a new idea. How are you handling it?
Um, I like ...
Being an elder spokesperson.
[laughs] Elder spokesperson. It’s good, actually. This particular group of millennials doesn’t irritate me. [laughs] I’ve seen some at other companies that are doing, like, “We’re talking to millennials.” They don’t brag like that, I don’t think they’re talking like that. The discussions that I’ve had with people at Vox Media are all about good journalism, good stories.
That was a really nice surprise, I think, to me. They do care about the stories, they care about a lot of things that I’ve always cared about. So that was nice. Again, I’m not of the people that think that there’s some secret sauce for young people versus old people. I think smart people like smart news and — look at the success of our podcasts. They are like that because people like smart things.
That’s right, smart people. Congratulations.
They do, they do. You can’t deny that they do, and to pretend that they do because of a certain age is just like ... Do they want it stupider, do they want it faster? No. I just don’t believe it. They don’t want it duller. I think the problem that people commit is they’re dull. And if you’re interesting, I think you always have an audience. That’s just my feeling.
Vox Media, like everyone else, wants to figure out video, they want more video, they want faster video, bigger video. You’re someone who’s typed for a living, you tell stories with words. How do you feel about transitioning to a video world?
I’m good with it.
I’m ready for my moment [laughs].
Yeah? You want some more camera time?
Yeah, I think I should be the top lesbian in media and not Rachel Maddow. I think we need to displace her. Lesbians do well on media, let me just tell you. On video.
Yeah, no no, that’s the sound of me biting my tongue. [KS laughs] Um, okay.
We’ve got to figure it out.
No one’s done it, right? No one’s done business ...
No, because you know, look, Bill Simmons’s thing didn’t work. I have a lot of thoughts ...
I mean yeah, there’s a separate thing about why ...
We’re in that genre though, we’re in that ...
The people-talking-to-other-people genre.
We could just film this.
Right, exactly. But we’re good at it. I maintain that that’s a big advantage for us. I was thinking of Elon Musk, because I’ve seen a million interviews with him. The best ones he’s done are with us. It’s not a mistake; we’re good at what we do. So I don’t know, if there’s a video element of that — I don’t know. You have to think of something.
How long do you want to do this for? This talking ...
Next week. [laughter] Next week. I don’t know, it’s interesting. I have aspirations, speaking of the Trump thing, of running for political office.
Everyone who meets me asks about that and says, “Is she serious?”
This was a year ago, I was talking about this.
And you are serious?
Yes. It makes me ... You know, even more so. It’s interesting that now everyone’s talking about now we should run.
We should spell it out: You want to be mayor of San Francisco.
I’m thinking governor now. [laughs]
No, president. I’m thinking, if this idiot could make it ...
You want to be el jefe.
You want to run for some kind of office.
Going back to how I wanted to be in the military, I believe in civic duty, I believe in civic involvement, and I’m not. I’m just not civically involved they way I should be. I feel like we sit around and gripe about our government and we gripe about this and that, and then we don’t take action, we don’t go out there and really do something about it.
There’s a lot of jobs, it’s not just the mayor of San Francisco, it’s that we really do abrogate our responsibility to create a civic society, and then therefore the crazy fucking people get to run things. This is what happens if we let it happen.
What about the idea that government is a serious thing, you should know a lot about what you’re doing, you shouldn’t do it as a lark — and by the way, it’s a lot of work.
Yeah, well, look what happened. [laughter] Here we have the reality show.
So your platform is, you could do worse? That was his platform.
We’re a mile away from the reality show of Trump Tower.
Listen, I don’t advocate that. I would hire intelligent and experienced people, for example. But I do think that there is a professional politician that has seeped into our world that probably needs some shaking up.
What’s the story you miss, what’s the story that you got wrong, the one that you kick yourself about?
Ach, too many.
What’s the big one?
Not too many big ones, not too many. God, there hasn’t been that many, we’ve been pretty good on them. We’re fast followers, too. I think when we don’t get the first thing, we’re pretty good at following. Probably the impact of the changing ... again, you’ve done a great job of this, what’s happened to media I think is still massive ...
Okay, okay, I’ll go back to work.
It sounds dumb, but some companies that I didn’t get right away. I did get Facebook right away, I think I got a lot of them right away. I did get Google right away, I was one of the first people to write about it and I really thought they were going to do great. And I had covered a lot of search engines, so I don’t feel bad about that.
I’m usually pretty good. I didn’t get eBay. I was in a meeting with the Benchmark guys and they explained it to me, and I was like, “I don’t get this.” I just didn’t get it, and it was stupid on my part because I covered retail, I should have gotten it. And then Meg Whitman actually called me because she was at Marvel or, I forget where she was, Mattel. And she said, “I heard you know a lot about the internet, can you tell me if I should take this job?” Because she had been at Disney and Mattel, I think.
Let me give you some good advice ...
Yeah, so I went on to where I was like, “I don’t get this, I don’t know ... But you can make some money.” I said that to her, I said, “I bet you can make some money.” Now she’s a billionaire.
Yeah, that’s kind of my standard response.
Yeah. Ehhh, why not.
And you’ll probably get fired, is the author response. If you’re comfortable with that then go for it.
I’m trying to think of what I wasn’t good on. I did get Snapchat. Twitter, right away, I understood. I was a big advocate of it to people, like the use, what it was. I’m trying to think of companies I missed. I try to stay open-minded. I think reporters like to shit on things right away, like, “Oh, this is not going to work, this is not going to work.” And I try to not [do that].
That’s kind of my stance.
It is your stance. [laughs] It’s a good stance to have, but it’s just sometimes I’m like ...
Sometimes if, you’re reflexively negative, you’ll be wrong.
Yes, exactly. So I’m not reflexively negative on many things, although I do think a lot of things are stupid.
What’s the interview you want that you haven’t gotten?
Well, Jesus, of course.
Jesus is dead. You’ve done Obama, would you do Trump?
So they say Jesus is dead.
Would you sit with Trump?
Christians are going to be mad about that, Peter.
[laughs] I think Christians are already mad at you.
[laughs] I’m actually Catholic, if you can believe it.
I know, I can’t believe it either. Trump, I think yeah, I would like to interview Trump. Although I think it would just be ugly. It’d just be one ugly interview. It could be really funny or it could be really, really ugly. Because I’d be like ...
He wants to be liked, so he would agree. [In] that Times interview he’s just telling them whatever they want to hear.
I’d literally be like, “So you lie a lot, can you explain that to me?” I think that would be my first question, and I think it would go downhill from there. I would like to interview Putin. We’re doing a lot more on the podcast of people who are outside of our genre.
I would like to interview Hillary Clinton now. I would like to do an interview with her, I think that would be good. I would like to interview Barack Obama, we’re hoping to get him on for something. I think, right now, political people interest me, but I think we don’t do enough artists and book writers and things like that.
I agree. Let’s get some more of those on here.
Well, I’ve always wanted to interview you, so thanks for making my dream come true.
[laughs] Here you go, dull as it may be.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Happy New Year.
Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanzaa.
What else? Do we have other advice to offer people?
Other advice. I just was at this gay breakfast this morning of gay techies. We like to meet and plot and stuff like that. And one of the things I was telling people is, you can’t underscore being cooperative and not disagreeing. I think a lot of people, we tend to go along too much and we tend to agree, and I think there’s real power in saying no. And saying, “Just a second,” and asking questions. And I think people don’t [do that]. It’s done well for me, I think it’s done well for you, with being fair and accurate and kind in a way.
Question. I think people do not, they don’t question it. There’s a tattoo I’m thinking of getting, actually. I have several tattoos, and there’s a tattoo I’m thinking of getting, and I don’t know if this story is correct but it’s when Galileo, he had to recant all his correct things about the universe, and I’m sure it’s just a fake story just like the eBay Pez dispenser story was fake. [laughs] But supposedly when he was leaving the courtroom, after he recanted everything that was accurate, he apparently whispered, “Eppur si muove.” “Still, it moves.” Like, fuck you.
Oh, I like that one.
Isn’t it great?
I like it.
So I was thinking of getting “Eppur si muove.”
I can’t commit to a tattoo, though.
They can make you say it’s not the case, but I want to be the person who says, “fuck you, it moves.” That’s the kind of thing.
We’ve gotta move, someone’s going to take this room. Thank you, Kara.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.